Children's Defense Fund

DECEMBER 2, 2005

HEALTH COVERAGE FOR 1,597,806 CHILDREN OR TAX CUTS
for 288,863 of the Wealthiest 1 Percent of US

Marian Wright Edelman

WASHINGTON -- December 2 -- Following is a memo from
Marian Wright Edelman, president, Children's Defense
Fund, to editorial board directors:

To: Editorial Board Directors

From: , President, Children's
Defense Fund

Re: Health Coverage for 1,597,806 Children or Tax Cuts for 288,863 of
the Wealthiest 1 Percent of US Taxpayers? State by State Tradeoffs
Chart Available.

What is most just and important to America's future?
Health coverage for 1.6 million children or tax breaks
for 289,000 of the wealthiest Americans?

Congress will meet in December to vote on a budget
bill which will greatly hurt the poor and children,
and on tax bills which will greatly benefit the
wealthiest Americans. The Senate budget bill would cut
$39 billion. The House budget bill would cut $50
billion primarily from programs for low income
children and families including Medicaid, foster care,
child support, child care, food stamps, and student
loans. The richest 1 percent of U.S. taxpayers will
reap the majority of the tax breaks from the capital
gains and dividend tax cuts included in the House tax
bill.

Nine million American children are uninsured. Almost
90 percent of them live in households where someone
works. An estimated 5-1/2 million of these children
are eligible for Medicaid and CHIP -- the Children's
Health Insurance Program -- but lack health coverage
because of poor state outreach and bureaucratic
barriers. The 25 million children who depend on
Medicaid's health lifeline are the most cost effective
beneficiaries of the program constituting almost half
of Medicaid's enrollment but less than 20 percent of
Medicaid costs. We know that prevention and early
intervention pays: every dollar we spend vaccinating
children against measles, mumps and rubella saves $16
in medical costs to treat those illnesses.

I believe that common sense, budget sense and
compassion for the vulnerable should make children the
last group any Governor, Congressperson or President
truly concerned about escalating health care costs
should be cutting or undermining. Yet that is
precisely what many of our nation's governors are
doing in their own states and urging Congress to do in
the morally obscene and fiscally irresponsible House
budget bill.

The National Governors Association proposals,
incorporated in the callous House budget bill, would
allow states "flexibility" to cut Medicaid coverage
for more than 6 million children by imposing premiums
and cost sharing for the first time in the children's
portion of Medicaid, and eliminating Medicaid's
guarantee of treatment for children under the
comprehensive child appropriate Early and Periodic
Screening, Diagnosis and Treatment Program. These
draconian cuts and structural changes would radically
alter the Medicaid program for children at a time when
we should be insuring every child.

These shortsighted actions are a backwards step and
frontal assault on still inadequate health coverage
for children. We know that premium and co-payment
requirements for parents reduce child health coverage.
We know that wages have stagnated or declined for
eight consecutive years. We know that child poverty
has increased for four consecutive years. We know that
the loss of employer based health coverage is soaring.
And we know that Katrina and Rita victims scattered
across America are still being denied Disaster Relief
Medicaid health care because the Bush Administration
and Congress have stonewalled for three months. Isn't
it time to challenge leaders who continue to make
choices that hurt children and the poor?

I hope every person in America who believes in liberty
and justice will rise up and say no to budget cuts
which hurt the weak and ask children -- our poorest
group of Americans -- and the working poor to bear the
burden of new tax cuts to the rich. No to both should
be every American's demand.

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For more information and a chart outlining the
tradeoffs between states, please contact Diane Powers
at 202-662-3615 or dpowers@childrensdefense.org